CORNWALL – Council is taking another hard look at the health benefits of fluoride in city water, weighing them against the risk to workers who handle the chemical.

Coun. Glen Grant pushed for the complete removal of fluoride from Cornwall’s water system during a meeting on Monday, instead of supporting a motion to continue funding the initiative next year.

“If you do a cost benefit analysis … to me the benefit is not there,” said Grant. “Plus we’ll save $50,000 a year on the actual product.”

A report from environmental services manger Morris McCormick notes that less than 1.5% of the fluoridated water is actually helping to prevent tooth decay; the majority of water is flushed into the river through the wastewater treatment plant.

“Regular equipment replacement is necessary due to the aggressive nature of this product,” he added. “Extreme care must be taken to avoid contact with skin or inhalation of this product since exposure to a leak would impact an employee’s health and safety.”

Municipal works general manager Norm Levac assured council that no workers have ever been injured while handling hydrofluorosilicic acid – the source of fluoridation – and proper training is provided to those with the job.

But it wasn’t enough for Grant.

“There’s potential for serious injury,” he said. “And if it’s not a benefit for the community, why are we putting our employees at risk?”

His colleagues weren’t so quick to make up their minds; they voted to postpone a decision on fluoridation until the Eastern Ontario Health Unit could provide details on the effects of the acid.

It will be the second time chief medical officer Dr. Paul Roumeliotis is asked to present to council on this issue; he spoke just weeks ago about the health benefits of fluoride, following an appearance by the Fluoride Free Cornwall group.

“I don’t know why we’re going to have the doctor come back,” said Grant. “…I think we can make an educated decision on this based on all the information we have.”

Coun. Denis Thibault disagreed that the choice was a clear one.

“I trust that (the opinions of) Dr. Paul and dentists at the Canadian level carry a lot more weight for the health of our community than $50,000 savings potentially,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ve (been) given all the information,” added Coun. Andre Rivette. “It’s important we have this thing addressed.”